There has never been any love lost between rival fans and Manchester United. Envy can be a strong, illogical emotion when one trophy after another repeatedly find their way into the crammed Old Trafford trophy cabinet. The only thing that is capable of bringing these fans together is understandably national pride, particularly in a World Cup year.
One such occasion took place on Wednesday night as the mood amongst England fans dramatically changed when the sight of an obviously distressed Wayne Rooney being assisted off the field suddenly silenced the jubilation at United’s late defeat. It was a moment witnessed by Philip Cornwall who submitted the following report for Football365.com
In just how many million throats will the cheers have died? Watching Manchester United lose to Bayern Munich in a London pub was to catch the change in the club v country dichotomy at its most obvious. There were United supporters of course, but loud celebrations when Wayne Rooney deflected Franck Ribery’s free kick inside Edwin van der Sar’s right post for Bayern’s equaliser.
The cheers were louder still, partly for the drama of it, partly for the fact of United’s defeat – when Ivica Olic caught Patrice Evra unawares and then had the presence to send Van der Sar the wrong way as he tucked the ball home at the Dutchman’s left post.
Seconds later, though, there was Rooney, United’s scorer, England’s talisman, bootless on one foot and pained, being helped from the pitch. An innocent coming together in the build up had floored the striker – and possibly the hopes of the country.
Celebrations turned to hopeful mumbles, that the injury was minor. Some mouths tried to talk about the impact on the league title race and Saturday’s meeting with Chelsea, or on the second leg against Bayern Munich, but brains were swiftly interrupting to point to South Africa. The brains were keeping pace with the hearts.
Until at least the Heysel ban, the general view of European club competitions was Us against Them, with English teams taking the field with a distinct disadvantage. After all, there were 12 foreigners lined up against us, 14 if you counted the linesmen as well as the referee. Those who allowed domestic allegiances to conquer national ones were in a distinct minority, generally restricted to local rivals.
Gradually, as competing, never mind succeeding, in the Champions League meant supremacy rather than glory, that changed. It takes an injury to an England player to remind people that to some extent we are still all in it together.
Paradoxically, there is a slice of fans at Manchester United, and an even larger one at Liverpool, who regard their club as being outside England, indeed antipathetic to the national team. The Mancunians will not welcome the sudden concern for their star player’s welfare, but it is there nonetheless.
For now, club and country wait for diagnosis and hope Sir Alex Ferguson’s optimistic noises prove justified.
Do you see anything wrong with England uniting football fans?